Student Interests—Broaden Them; Build on Them

You may spend hours in preparation for teaching, but preparation does no good if you cannot rouse your students’ interest. A student will not concentrate for more than a few seconds on a subject in which he has no interest. But an interested student will pay attention, read, research, discuss, and concentrate with enthusiasm. Interest gets the brain working. How can you more readily “flip the switch”?

Recognize that interests vary with the pupil and his maturity, and even with the time of day. Although Cain and Abel were brothers, they had different interests. Even the twins, Jacob and Esau, were completely different. A six-year-old is captivated by different things than a sixteen-year-old. A child is usually more interested in spelling at 9:00 a.m. than at 9:00 p.m.

You as a teacher will see academic needs in students more readily than they themselves. Besides that, they have the natural tendency to laziness, pleasure seeking, and self-centeredness. A good teacher broadens and directs his students’ interests in a way that contributes to meeting the students’ academic needs.

Interests must be directed toward godliness and away from carnality. Introduce children to godly heroes rather than to sports, entertainment, and political idols. Inspire them with Christ-centered living rather than fashion and materialism. Direct them into God-honoring occupations and Christian service. Steer away from technology idols such as sports cars, cameras, sound systems, and wrong or questionable uses of the computer. Inspire them to faithful stewardship of God’s resources in His kingdom.

Be an example to your students by actively broadening your own interests. Your attitudes, appreciations, habits, and skills become models. Interest is contagious; exhibit a sincere interest in people, passion for God and His kingdom, and alertness to God’s fingerprints in each school subject.

God has blessed us with inquisitive and creative minds. Therefore interests can be broadened and developed. Anyone who goes through life with eyes and ears wide open will have many interests. Consider these specific suggestions of ways to expose, inspire, and develop them:

  • Model enthusiasm and interest in many things. Express with sincerity your fulfillment in following God’s leading.
  • Emphasize the uniqueness of the individual and God’s niche for each one—his time in history, genetic characteristics, family upbringing, and opportunity to learn.
  • Ask these questions about each subject: What does this teach me about God? Why is it important to Him that I learn this?
  • Provide many and varied experiences. Variety encourages alertness and observation. Give opportunities to try new things.
  • Introduce your students to a variety of people who have wide interests or specialties—both historical and present-day people. 
  • Take field trips to learn about services and explore occupations. Expect observation and questions, and require a report on items of interest.
  • Require nonfiction reading and reporting.
  • Give tastes of cultures, languages, and geography.
  • Expose students to God-honoring forms of art, music, and literature. Discuss what makes them so.
  • Discuss heroes you want them to emulate.
  • Use storytime for more than relaxation and entertainment. Discuss qualities and actions of characters.
  • Discuss items of local, national, and international news. Point out features of geography, economics, interpersonal relationships, and culture. Would it be different if the people were living for Christ? 
  • Challenge students to use technology in spreading the Gospel and building the church.
  • Spark observations about nature, animals, and people.
  • Discuss blessings of a Biblical worldview and lifestyle—freedom, peace, and joyfulness.

All of us readily express our interests. Those are the subjects we think about, and easily talk and write about. One task for teachers is to capitalize on their students’ interests and relate them to school material. When a student realizes that a study will help him to better understand and express his interest, he will more readily give his attention to it. Think about these ways of relating interests to daily school life:

  • Reports—oral or written. Even if written, they can be presented orally.
  • Reading resource material.
  • Relating mathematics—counting, measuring, analyzing, graphing, predicting probability, ratios, percentages, shapes.
  • History of the subject.
  • Occupations relating to it.
  • Experiments that it suggests.
  • Collections. We love to collect things that are important to us.
  • Room décor—art, design. However, beware lest one feature dominate the “landscape,” and attention is stolen from other necessary endeavors.

A person with many interests finds life more interesting and can more easily relate to a variety of people. Help your students open their eyes and minds to God’s wonderful world of people and nature. This will ensure them a better education.

“I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19).

—Dwight Beachy

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